Oregon Sports News writers Julian Rogers and Jessica Ridpath discuss and predict the week 10 matchup between the Seattle Seahawks (5–2–1) and the New England Patriots (7–1).
When: 5:30 p.m. PT, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Rogers: Which hype has been harder to take: the finally concluded presidential election or the hype for this contest between the NFL’s top two conference heavyweights?
It’s been clear since even before Tom Brady resumed play after sitting out the first four weeks of the season that the NFL is the Patriots’ world. The rest of the teams are just living in it. They are clearly the class of the AFC. If there are any NFC teams that can hold a candle to the Patriots, the Seahawks are one of a very small sample size.
Now sitting at 5–2–1, the Seahawks not only enjoy a two-game lead in their division, but a head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Atlanta Falcons. The Dallas Cowboys can lay claim to being the NFC’s favorite, but the Seahawks have just weathered a storm of life with a gimpy quarterback and are quite possibly poised for improved offensive production in the latter half of the 2016 season. They also don’t have to play in the NFC East division which doesn’t have a team with a losing record, compared to the NFC West, which has three teams with losing records.
Jess, I’m calling this a statement game for both teams. Is the performance we saw from Russell Wilson on Monday night a sign that he’s all the way back, or will the Seahawks’ 26th-ranked offense continue to sputter and spurt against the Patriots’ 15th-ranked defense?
Ridpath: I think Wilson is back—but in a different form. Sure, he looked more nimble, and even scrambled for a couple first downs and a touchdown. But what he showed us Monday is that he’s turning into a damn good pocket passer. His performance in the air was the best of the season so far: 76.9% completion rate, 10.85 yards per completion, and a passer rating of 137.0. In his previous three games, his passer rating never even broke 90.
Cue Jimmy Graham and his electrifying leaps and one-handed catches, and the Seahawks offense is looking hotter than they have all season. Unless you count the run game, that is.
Now ranked 30th in the league, Seattle’s rushing attack looked dismal Monday night. Twelve attempts for a total of 33 yards? The Seahawks? Those are stats that would have been almost as inconceivable as a Donald Trump presidency just a year ago.
Julian, I have two questions for you. First, in past weeks you’ve attributed the blue birds’ lack of production on the ground to their faltering offensive line. Is that still what’s going on, or are you ready to place some blame on running backs Christine Michael (5 attempts that netted 1 yard) and C.J. Prosise (3 attempts, 9 yards)? Second, Seattle’s success in the air against Buffalo can be attributed in part to sloppy play by the Bills’ secondary. What can Wilson and company expect from New England’s defensive backs this Sunday?
Rogers: When your rushing production is that anemic, blame can be spread around liberally. Ultimately, it’s more about the lack of push from the offensive line than it is from the running backs. I think we’re seeing signs of what Prosise can be in the Seahawks’ second-half of 2016 offense—that’s a positive. Another positive will be the boost to be gained when Thomas Rawls returns later this year. I’m still bullish on Michael. Yes, he lacks elite-level vision and decision-making, but he still has the potential to be more than “just a guy.”
But when your starting right and left tackles did not play their positions in college, you tend to work at a constant deficit. I challenge anyone to point to a game this year when the Seahawks didn’t have a matchup disadvantage with their offensive line vs. opponents’ front sevens.
To answer your second question, the New England Patriots’ are seeing some noticeable decline in play from their starting cornerbacks, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. In fact, Ryan is projected to give up 105 catches this season (according to Pro Football Focus), which has to excite everyone involved in the Seahawks’ passing offense.
Butler, the Seahawk killer, is also seeing some slip in his play compared to last year. The Patriots currently have a middling 18th-ranking in pass defense halfway through the season. The safeties, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are seasoned veterans that won’t be fooled by anything the Seahawks plot. They can be beaten by superior athletes, which is good news for the Seahawks’ top physical talents, Graham, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett.
Jess, things got mighty chippy for the Seahawks during the Bills game and in its aftermath this week. Can/will the blue birds maintain the same level of intensity on the road against the league-ruling Patriots?
Ridpath: I hate to mix politics and football, but in my post-election daze, here’s the first thought that comes to mind: I hope the Seahawks remember that Brady and Bill Belichick are purported Trump supporters when they take the field on Sunday. I hope they take some of the anger and dismay that has settled on many of us in the Northwest and turn it into the intensity they’ll no doubt need to beat the league’s elite team.
My heart (what’s left of it on November 9, anyway) is telling me that that Wilson, Graham, Baldwin and the rest of the receiving corps have more than enough talent and drive to continue Seattle’s offensive resurgence in Foxborough. The o-line and the run game are the obvious X factors.
And with those deficits in mind, a Seahawks victory may seem unlikely. But damn … the Cubs just won the World Series and Donald effing Trump is going to be President of the United States. Anything is possible. Prediction: Seahawks 31, Patriots 28.
Rogers: There are two kinds of crazy right now. There’s the United States of Trump crazy, and there’s the Seahawks-going-to-Foxborough-and-beating-the-Patriots crazy. We’ve had enough crazy. It’s time to reconcile our differences and come together as a football-absorbing nation. America is suffering a prediction crisis, but I’m hearing it’s a slam dunk for the Patriots, believe me. It’s going to be a terrific, really tremendous win for the Northeasterners as they make the AFC great again. Prediction: Patriots 30, Seahawks 23.
Here’s what we were right and wrong about last week.
What he got right: The game winner. I’m 5–3 on the season. The Seahawks’ offense re-ignited as I had predicted.
What he got wrong: The Seahawks’ defense allowed more points than anticipated—a growing concern over their past couple of games.
What she got right: The game winner, bringing me back to even at 4–4. I pointed out Wilson’s growth as a pocket passer, and he showed that he’s on pace to continue that upward trajectory. I also expected a close game—but no one could have predicted the officiating antics that kept Buffalo from making it even closer.
What she got wrong: I anticipated a lower-scoring game—and a less-thrilling performance by Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on him after seeing firsthand what he’s capable of.